Recently, the NetEngine team has been working on developing AI for one of our work tech clients, Scout Talent. The goal was to support Scout Talent’s business needs as a talent acquisition platform in a phased process – with the first phase being using AI to automate content generation.

Leading this project is frontend developer, Phil Cantrel, who shares his thoughts below on AI: what it is, what about it sparked his interest, and how it is transforming technology.

What is AI and how is it changing technology?

AI (Artificial Intelligence) is a rapidly developing field that encompasses a range of technologies that allow machines to learn and act without explicit programming. These fields include machine learning, natural language processing and computer vision. Instead of programmers needing a deep understanding of a problem and its underlying patterns, they can now ‘train’ neural networks, which are based loosely on the structure of the human brain.

The training process typically involves feeding large amounts of relevant data to the neural network, with modifications being made to its parameters via techniques such as supervised, unsupervised and reinforcement learning to optimise its output.

This new way of approaching computing has allowed for massive improvements in technologies that process and generate written content, contextualise and understand images and video, transcribe and synthesise human speech, write computer code and even generate original artwork.

According to the Harvard Business Review (Davenport and Ronanki, 2018, p. 110), AI can be categorised into three broad types, each of which supports one of these business needs: automating business processes, gaining insight through data analysis, and engaging with customers and employees. NetEngine’s initial phase of work with Scout Talent falls into process automation, allowing for automated content generation (such as job descriptions) as part of their end-to-end talent acquisition process.

What drove my interest in AI?

I’ve always had an interest in computing and the possibilities of disruptive fields in tech. As such, I’ve made a habit of keeping up to date with new ideas and development in the space.

My interest specifically in the field of AI was sparked in 2010 with Google’s driverless car endeavours, which used computer vision to enable the cars to navigate in real world spaces. After that, it was the development of AI systems that could beat human players in games like Go and DOTA2, along with more recent advancements in text and image generation, that prompted me to explore how I could use the technology in my work at NetEngine.

I got support from my team leaders to pursue research into AI, which culminated in my using the learnings from my personal development time to integrate GPT-3 into one of Scout Talent’s existing products to demonstrate its ability to automate content generation.

Who’s making big moves in AI?

Google, Amazon, Facebook, IBM, Microsoft, Tesla and Apple have all made significant investments in AI research and development to improve their products and services. For example, Google has been implementing AI over several years to provide better search results, create their Google Assistant, improve the accuracy of their language translation services, organise and tag images in Google Photos, and develop driverless cars (Waymo) – just to name a few.

There has been a recent emergence of new competitors in the field, the biggest of which is OpenAI, a company built with the sole purpose of developing useful AI models. Their DALLE-2 model has allowed users to generate original images and artwork based on text prompts while their GPT-3 language model has been used to create the very popular ChatGPT website which allows users to ask an AI chatbot to perform a variety of tasks, from answering questions to creating blog posts and much more with impressive results.

Microsoft are now considering a $10 billion investment in OpenAI, which is in addition to their current strong partnership. At present, Microsoft provides its Azure cloud infrastructure for the training and deployment of OpenAI’s models and has exclusive licence to some of OpenAI’s technology.

How can I get in on the action?

As researching, training and developing AI models requires significant capital investment, as well as experts in the machine learning field, smaller companies and startups are often unable to make their own proprietary AI models.

Many of these smaller companies have instead turned to established AI providers such as OpenAI and Google, leveraging their existing pre-trained AI models and cloud infrastructure, available via easy-to-use APIs, to develop new products and integrate AI technology into their software and services. Jasper, a recent AI startup with a $1.5B valuation, specialises in generating blogs, landing pages, video scripts, social media posts, images and more. It primarily uses OpenAI’s GPT-3 and DALL-E 2 products as its underlying technology to provide its services.

There are also alternative ‘open-source’ AI models such as BLOOM (a language model similar to GPT-3) and Stable Diffusion (a text-to-image model) which can be freely downloaded and deployed, removing the necessity to lock into a specific AI vendor and their pricing model.

The future that AI represents is vast and many of its potential applications are yet to be implemented and monetised. As AI evolves and improves, we will see more companies and startups capitalising on the opportunities it presents. Artificial Intelligence is on a path to significantly transform the way we live and work, making it important for companies to stay informed and ready to adapt in order to stay competitive.


Interested in implementing AI to fulfil your work tech business needs? Get in touch with us here.

About the Author

Let’s say you’ve got a million-dollar app idea. It’s brilliant, it’s visionary, and most importantly, it hasn’t been done before! You know you could make it big if you could find a way to get your app into the market, but you have zero app development or specialist tech knowledge. This hypothetical has plagued future entrepreneurs for years. Who has time to research mobile and web app development while trying to juggle life’s other priorities? Not you, that’s who! There are workarounds though, as a lot of the heavy lifting can be outsourced to professionals who can take the pressure off the logistical side of app development, which frees you to focus on the ideas behind the tech. 

However, before the first piece of code is written, it’s important to have carefully considered the other non-technical aspects of your project. In the same way a house requires a strong foundation on which to build, so too does your mobile or web app. Before you dive into the technological back-end of your app, you need to ensure that you first have considered and planned for all possibilities that could derail your idea, your passion, or your launch. 


Do your market research

It’s a busy market out there. In a cutthroat marketplace, if a user is unhappy with the design, function, or experience of your app, it’s unlikely that they will use it again, or even download in the first place. According to a report by SAP, nearly 80% of mobile apps are abandoned after their first use. On many occasions, this is because the app didn’t cater for the specific needs that the market demands. 

It’s important for you to invest time in thorough market research so you can find out what market problems and needs your app will address. Who is the target audience for your app, and what do you know about them? What are their interests, their needs, and their pain-points? If you nail your market research, you can nail the specifics of your app’s features, and ensure that what you’re offering will be tailored to what your users want.

Market research is the most important activity to undertake before launching an app. NetEngine’s highly experienced team members continually ensure that your app’s features are market-leading and user-focused. Book in for a free consultation to ensure that your market research can be translated into tangible results. 


Find the one thing that you do better than anyone else, and improve on it

Let’s call a spade a spade. The market is crowded, and it’s oftentimes hard to break through the white noise. For every app idea, there are likely already hundreds of apps that exist that offer a similar service. This, however, should not discourage you from making your idea a reality; different personal and professional backgrounds are what makes us unique, and apps can thrive even if there are many similar options in the marketplace. To differentiate yourself, you’ll need to ensure that your app has a unique value proposition, even if the core functionality is the same

If you’ve got incredible design sense, make your front-end user experience (UX) beautiful and unique. If you’re an amazing copywriter, make sure you’re pumping out relevant and interesting content. If you offer a service that is hard to come by in your industry, promote it more heavily than your other offerings. 

Also, don’t be afraid to think small! Your app doesn’t have to be the next Instagram. If you do what you do well, you can promote it locally across personal networks, and make your ‘thing’ personalised, on-shore, passionate service from a team of friendly locals. 

If you don’t know what your ‘thing’ is, talking to the professionals at NetEngine can help you identify and simplify what you want to offer. This is why workshopping is one of the first stages of working with us; so we can make sure that our ideals align, and we can best create your vision to help you succeed. 


Make sure your marketing is impactful and message-focused

The age-old adage goes, “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all!”. The same mindset can be applied to marketing (sort of). Many brands pump out daily content because they think that quantity over quality will put your brand on the map, and that social media algorithms and robust search engine optimisation (SEO) practices will establish you as an industry leader. On the contrary, many organisations who push content that doesn’t align with their brand, their beliefs, or their product offering can isolate their mailing lists and subscribers, and they end up struggling when the time comes to promote an exciting new development or feature.

Instead of finding content that you can shoehorn into an article or update, wait until you have something to say before posting. While the frequency won’t be as high, you’ll establish yourself as someone who demands to be listened to, and whose words carry weight. Have you got a new product update with features that will benefit your users? Write an article about it! Is your team expanding, and you’ve brought on a new member? Post on LinkedIn introducing them to your network! By writing about what you know and care about, you’ll find that marketing your app becomes easy and enjoyable. 


Different developers do different things; know the difference

When it comes to app development, there is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ approach, and each avenue comes with its own pros and cons. If you choose to recruit a full-stack developer, you will likely find they are a great resource, as they are tech generalists who are available to meet one-to-one, discuss ideas, and pull all aspects of your app’s development under one roof. However, full-stack developers generally don’t bring a diversity of experience and can lack specialist skill and technical expertise, and are also generally quite expensive to engage if they work full-time on your project.

If you’ve meticulously planned the nitty-gritty of your app and have all your ducks in a row, or if your budget is quite limited, you may consider engaging an off-shore development team. This can be a cost-effective option short-term, as they usually charge hourly, work efficiently, and can teach you a lot about the technical side of the development process. However, when considering your medium- and long-term strategy, working with off-shore developers can cause you to lose collaboration opportunities, and thus you will need to assume the responsibility of providing the team with detailed direction and a fully mapped out plan of attack. 

By connecting with a local development house, you harness the skills of multiple specialists, and have the opportunity to collaborate every step of the way. More expertise and diversity in the room also means a faster turnaround time for your minimum viable product (MVP). Furthermore, with the right skills all in one place, there will be less idle moments and potential blockers as the need for outsourced talent is greatly reduced. NetEngine’s entire suite of developers is entirely local to Brisbane, and are ready to help you achieve your app goals. Book a free consultation today.   


Workshop your idea with the professionals

If you don’t have collaborators or business partners to bounce ideas off, you may find yourself with a universal problem; you work so closely on the ideas, and you assume everyone sees the concept, the problems, and their solutions in the same way that you do. In fact, the more people you collaborate with when mapping out your app idea, the stronger your foundation will be

NetEngine offers workshops at the beginning of our consultation process to ensure that everyone gets in on the ground floor and is clear about the goals, obstacles, and intentions of the app. Our workshop sessions help guide everyone towards the same objective through rigorous and detailed discussion and they will also heavily influence the development process by identifying the problem you are trying to solve and using this as the single source of truth. Throughout these workshops, you’ll have the opportunity to speak with a project lead, a UX/UI designer, a front-end developer, and a back-end developer, so the information you are getting is varied and educated (some NetEngine clients choose to participate in multiple workshops, months before they’re ready to build!).


If you’ve got a million-dollar app idea, don’t let it be snatched up by someone more proactive than you. Reach out to NetEngine today, and talk to our team of professionals to turn your tech dreams into a reality. 

NetEngine - Cheat Sheet to developing an app cover image

Our increasingly technological and globalised working world has levelled the playing field, and as such, your business may face new market competitors almost every day. Now, there’s so much at stake to stay relevant, competitive and achieve your business growth goals. Building your business’ digital capabilities is imperative to stay one step ahead of potentially disruptive technology, or even integrate them into your organisational models.

In this context, many CEOs worry about cannibalising their traditional revenue streams. But the reality is, if you don’t do it, someone else will.

Whether you’re a busy CEO of a corporation or a founder looking to launch a startup, digital innovation may be topping your agenda as a key driver to reach your business objectives.

If you’re curious about the mobile or web app development process, this guide will provide you with some useful, high-level insights to get you started on bringing your digital vision to life.

In this guide, you’ll learn:

  • How to create a strong foundation for our mobile or web app
  • The different avenues for starting your development process and connecting with developers
  • How to create your minimum viable product (MVP).

So, you have an incredible idea for an app. It’s your pet project or idea and you’re passionate about it. But you’ve never done it before! Where do you go, what should you do, and where should you start?

Before you launch into marketing or developing your app, workshopping your idea and determining product-market fit as a starting point is a must.

Why? Product-market fit can be the difference between failure and success. The primary reasons apps fail, aside from poor process execution, is due to poor research, marketing competition and a lack of customer research.

But don’t let this caution deter you from innovation and bringing your digital vision to life. The ideation phase can be one of the most rewarding and exciting parts of your software development journey!

What is product-market fit?

Product-market fit occurs when your product suits strong market demand. It’s when your unique value proposition, customer needs, and distribution align. In essence, it’s when your product directly satisfies customers’ needs in a way other products do not.

Why does product-market fit matter?

The biggest problem companies face is thinking they’ve achieved product-market fit when they haven’t put the work in. Product-market fit is the foundation for any successful venture to win early adopters, gather feedback and gauge interest. It’s the best way to confirm people are willing to engage with or pay for your product, before your team invests time and energy on growth or upselling initiatives. (In fact, these can be counterproductive if your product doesn’t have enough market reach to generate profit.)

The two primary ways to determine product-market fit

Determining product-market fit means deciding the type of business you want to be. Do you want to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars on market research, focus groups and user assessments to “test” and shape your app and determine how far it aligns with the market? Or, would you prefer to invest your time and money investigating, testing and growing your idea so you can rapidly innovate? 

If you have money and time to burn, the first option could be perfectly viable. However, many people are guided by a false fear that marketing testing, research and investigation is the only way to make progress. But this can be counterintuitive to rapid innovation. 

If rapid innovation is your goal, the latter option is ideal. Creating a minimum viable product (MVP) and testing your idea is a worthwhile investment to reach your goals sooner. This involves engaging developers to test your idea conceptually or literally.

This enables you to learn, obtain experience and work with developers and stakeholders while growing and managing your product. As you develop your app, you are already in the process of challenging your thought processes, using rapid innovation, and scoping, sizing and testing within a group. As you commence sketching and building workflows, you’ll be able to quickly assess what works and what doesn’t in real time.

Does creating a minimum viable product (MVP) to test product-market fit and achieve rapid innovation sooner sound like a path you’d like to explore? If so, read on.

While there’s no perfect order of events, here are some tips for workshopping your app idea and determining product-market fit based on the hundreds of Discovery Workshops we’ve completed with innovators just like you.

1. Act when your energy is high

It’s essential to act when your energy is high and when it’s most relevant and important to you. This is different for everybody!

In some instances, people have ideas and launch into the Discovery phase without fleshing out a product plan at all. More often, though, people invest mountains of time, energy, effort, research, assumptions and emotion into their idea from the get-go before the discovery phase. Then, when it comes to workshopping their idea and determining product-market fit, they discover all this initial investment was misdirected.

There’s a sweet spot on this spectrum between under and overbaking your idea. While there’ll never be a “perfect” time, act when your energy and passion is high.

2. Involve the right people – including developers!

You may feel tentative to workshop your idea with others, feeling pressure to over-research and over-prepare, particularly before meeting with a development team. It’s completely normal and understandable to want to get all your ducks in a row before investing in your idea through workshopping.

 But the risk here is you miss out on key thought processes and firing up momentum.

Ideation is most successful when you’re surrounded by the right team. Don’t feel pressured to wait until you’re ready to build to involve developers! Get them involved early – even if you’re an expert in your field and not software development.

(For example, some NetEngine clients choose to participate in multiple Discovery Workshops, months before they’re ready to build!)

This will give you access to critical expertise to inform your thought processes and key moments of decision-making.

3. Workshop your idea

When identifying product-market fit for your app – participate in a workshop. Workshops should be done well and as often as you require. They should be rigorous, inclusive and collaborative. 

As we’ve shared before, there is no such thing as the perfect time. (In doubt? You probably need to do a workshop!)

Workshops are a valuable opportunity for you to identify the problem you’re solving and the need you’re satisfying.

While there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to structuring your workshop, here’s some key takeaways based on the hundreds of successful workshops we’ve completed with digital innovators, ranging from those with technical backgrounds to those without.

NetEngine Discovery Workshops take a collaborative, inclusive and team-based approach, giving people access to a diverse range of expertise – including a project lead, UI/UX developer, front-end developer and back-end developer.

Workshop attendees bring their expertise and our developers and facilitators bring theirs. Everyone is on the same “team” to share and collaborate, making a conscious effort to view objectives from the same lens, while still collaborating and sharing diverse perspectives.

Note, if you workshop your ideas with developers, developers will not assess your product-market fit. However, without speaking with developers first, when it comes time to assess your product-market fit in a business strategy consultation, you’ll only have half the knowledge you need. 

Developers load up your knowledge base, giving you information and understanding about the personality and potential of your app. This gives you a better base from which to determine product-market fit. 

4. Develop your Minimum Viable Product

After workshopping your idea, it’s time to build and develop to reach your MVP. Every project and person has different goals and requirements, so there’s no cookie-cutter approach to what outcomes you’ll achieve after a workshop.

Your developers may deliver:

  • mockups and prototypes
  • customer and user personas
  • user journey maps
  • user flow
  • information architecture
  • journey mapping, scope, estimates
  • workflows and wireframes.

All these elements get you closer to your MVP to reach your rapid innovation goals sooner.

5. Test and validate your MVP

After developing your MVP, you can use it as your business case and proof of concept, sharing it with initial test users and investors! Your MVP helps you understand whether your app is right for your target market. You can use it to share your brand with users and demonstrate how your app is unique compared to others. 

Review and test it thoroughly. Collect users’ reactions and harness their feedback to determine the acceptability and competitiveness of your product in market.

Final thoughts

For all the rapid innovators, developing and testing your MVP to validate your product-market fit is a great way to ensure speed to market and that your dollars are invested well.  Use it to solve the right problems, target, segment, test and develop your business case. Don’t be afraid to connect with developers only – as they’ll be able to contribute important expertise and key thought processes. They can also help you fire up momentum. Remember, there’s no such thing as the “perfect time” to start.

Looking to bring your digital vision to life, fast? Connect with local, approachable developers at NetEngine to start workshopping your idea today.